How to Become a Dental Assistant in California

California is the top state in the country for dental assisting employment, according to the Bureau of Labor.

It’s a great place to enter into this rewarding and exciting career!

Education & Training

Online certification courses are the best way to get started:

Search Dental Assistant Programs

Get information on Dental Assistant programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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Program Benefits

You will learn the skills needed to sit for the National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA) or Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exams by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).

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How Long Does It Take?

Dental assistants are often capable of completing a training course within just 12 months.  You might be able to complete the course above in 6 months depending on your pace of study.

How Much Does it Cost?

Approximately $2,000, and financing is available

What Do You Study?

With any dental assistant program, expect to take the following courses:

  • Dental office administration
  • Basics of dental terminology and patient issues
  • How to scheduling appointments with software
  • Patient records retrieval and history
  • Bookkeeping, billing and recall systems
  • Understanding claim forms
  • Industry coding

More Local Programs

    American Career College
    10 month dental assisting course geared towards the RDA exam.

    • Anaheim, Ontario, Los Angeles

    Arizona College of Nursing
    9 month hybrid program that includes Radiation Health and Safety Certification. No GED required.

    • Ontario

    Carrington College
    Carrington College’s Dental Assisting program provides comprehensive training for students to work in dental offices, covering patient care, office duties, and laboratory tasks. Accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges and approved by the Dental Board of California, the program offers flexible learning options, including online and on-ground lab classes, and can be completed in as little as nine months.

    • Citrus Heights, Pleasant Hill, Sacramento, San Jose, San Leandro, Stockton

    Charter College
    Charter College offers a 10-month Certificate in Dental Assisting program, designed to prepare students for entry-level positions in dental offices, laboratories, and support organizations. The blended learning format includes classroom instruction and online coursework, covering essential skills such as preventative dentistry, radiography, infection control, and dental office management. Students also complete a 180-hour externship for hands-on experience, ensuring they meet state and local regulations, understand environmental and infection control issues, and demonstrate professionalism and effective administrative abilities.

    • Canyon Country, Lancaster, Oxnard

    Concorde Career College

    • Garden Grove, North Hollywood, San Bernardino, San Diego

    Milan Institute
    36-week training program in California, Nevada, and Texas, providing both administrative and clinical skills. Students receive hands-on training through an externship at an off-site dental facility, learning essential tasks such as scheduling appointments, assisting dentists during procedures, and performing dental radiology.

    • Bakersfield, Fresno, Merced, Palm Desert, Visalia, Fairfield, La Quinta

    National Career College
    National Career College’s Dental Assistant Program in Los Angeles provides a blend of technical skills and patient care expertise for a rewarding career in the dental industry. The program offers practical experience with state-of-the-art facilities simulating real-world dental offices, flexible scheduling, and financial aid options to accommodate students' needs. Accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES), the 9-month program includes a comprehensive curriculum and externship, preparing graduates for a stable and fulfilling career in dental healthcare.

    • Panorama City

    San Joaquin Valley College
    SJVC's Dental Assisting program equips students with comprehensive training in patient care, office, and laboratory duties essential for working with a dentist. The program offers hands-on training and can be completed in as few as 11 months, with classes available at five convenient locations in California. SJVC is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) and approved by the California Bureau of Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE). Graduates are prepared for entry-level positions in dental offices, performing tasks such as chairside assistance, taking dental impressions, and conducting preventive clinical procedures.

    • Atascadero, Bakersfield, Delano, Fresno, Hanford, Hesperia, Lancaster, Madera, Salida, Ontario, Porterville, Rancho Cordova, Temecula, Visalia

    UEI College
    10 Month online and in-class program with externship requirments.

    • Anaheim, Bakersfield, Chula Vista, Encino, Fresno, Gardena, Huntington Park, Ontario, Riverside, Sacramento, San Marcos, Stockton, West Covina

    Unitek College
    Unitek College’s Dental Assisting program offers a hybrid (in-person and online) curriculum that can be completed in as little as 10 months, providing a robust foundation in both clinical and administrative aspects of dental assisting. The program covers essential skills such as sterilization techniques, dental X-rays, and emergency management, with a focus on hands-on labs and a 200-hour externship.

    • Bakersfield, Concord, Fremont, Hayward, Sacramento, San Jose, South San Francisco

California Requirements

Once you have completed your education, you need to be apply to become a Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) in California.

According to the Dental Board of California:

To Qualify for RDA examinations, you must:

  1. Graduate from a Board-approved RDA educational program of a minimum of 800 hours (approximately 8 months); or
  2. Complete at least 15 months of satisfactory (1,280 Hours) paid work experience as a dental assistant with a dentist licensed in one of the states in the United States; or
  3. Complete a California Department of Education approved 4-month educational program, and 11 months of work experience with a dentist(s) licensed in one of the states of the United States.

Licensed vs Unlicensed

While it is not mandatory in all states that a dental assistant be licensed, many states severely limit the tasks an unlicensed dental assistant may perform.

In California, for example, the job details vary depending on whether a dental assistant is licensed or not.

As would be expected, there is also a difference in the pay you can expect to receive if you are licensed versus not being licensed. This is because the duties can be so varied.


An unlicensed dental assistant in California may:

  • Apply fluoride treatment
  • Examine orthodontia for defects
  • Expose finished x-rays
  • Hand instruments to the dentist or oral surgeon during a procedure
  • Handle billing
  • Polish finished casts
  • Pour casts
  • Prepare instrument trays
  • Prepare insurance claims
  • Ready a patient for procedures
  • Schedule appointments and greet patients
  • Sterilize equipment
  • Suction a patient’s mouth during a procedure


Once a dental assistant is licensed, he or she can handle additional responsibilities. Those tasks include:

  • Examine teeth for damage using mirrors and other tools
  • Handle teeth whitening treatments
  • Insert dressings after oral surgeries
  • Prepare temporary crowns
  • Take patient histories
  • Remove stitches

Finally, a licensed dental assistant who passes the state dental examining board’s advanced training program has additional job details. These may include:

  • Apply sealants
  • Prepare enamel bonding treatments
  • Prepare and take teeth impressions for dental appliances


Below are some average salaries and hourly wages for areas of the state.

Area Hourly Annual
Bakersfield $23.30 $48,460.00
Chico $24.60 $51,160.00
Eastern Sierra-Mother Lode $26.68 $55,490.00
El Centro $26.58 $55,280.00
Fresno $23.93 $49,770.00
Hanford-Corcoran $26.09 $54,270.00
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim $22.78 $47,390.00
Madera $25.20 $52,420.00
Merced $24.68 $51,340.00
Modesto $24.33 $50,600.00
Napa $27.61 $57,430.00
North Coast $26.47 $55,060.00
North Valley-Northern Mountains $29.29 $60,930.00
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura $24.69 $51,360.00
Redding $24.61 $51,190.00
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario $23.17 $48,190.00
Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade $27.69 $57,600.00
Salinas $26.50 $55,120.00
San Diego-Carlsbad $24.51 $50,980.00
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward $29.81 $62,000.00
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara $32.04 $66,640.00
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande $25.49 $53,010.00
Santa Cruz-Watsonville $24.40 $50,760.00
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara $27.20 $56,580.00
Santa Rosa $30.13 $62,680.00
Stockton-Lodi $25.25 $52,520.00
Vallejo-Fairfield $28.91 $60,120.00
Visalia-Porterville $24.21 $50,350.00
Yuba City $23.78 $49,460.00

Occupation: Dental Assistants(SOC Code319091)

Job Description

Job listings require a strong knowledge of dental tools, the ability to work well with others, excellent customer service skills, calm sense of being even when stressed, and the ability to solve problems independently.

Dentists want assistants who require little prompting to get the work completed in a timely manner. As many tasks require precision details, a steady hand is often necessary.

Things like removing stitches or applying sealants could injure a patient if the dental assistant has shaky hands.

Search Dental Assistant Programs

Get information on Dental Assistant programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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Dental Assistant vs Dental Hygienist